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Victoria Monét’s ‘Jaguar II’ is the Crown Jewel of this Summer’s R&B Resurgence

Across the roll out of her debut studio album, Jaguar II, Victoria Monét has been a jokester and a party girl, all while proving that her skill is nothing to play with. The 34 year-old is a real triple threat who writes, sings, and dances with social media appeal that can draw both pop and R&B lovers into her world. 

Take the music video for her latest standout single “On My Mama,” where she sings smoothly of bad bitchery and uses lucious, syrupy horns to elevate an interpolation of Texan rapper Charlie Boy’s nearly 15 year-old hip-hop hit “I Look Good.” Monét is undoubtedly a charming vocalist and cunning lyricist: previously, she made swoon-worthy songs about her perfectly sculpted ass and being a good fuck buddy. On Jaguar II, she and Grammy-winner Lucky Daye sing a sexy ode to getting high. Elsewhere, she’s curt and sweet as she tells her gold digging associates to stop asking her for shit. However, it’s likely that the video for “On My Mama” hit a million views in just three days because it lived up to the glittering reputation Monét has built as a live performer (her upcoming tour sold out in minutes) who doesn’t take herself too seriously. In the music video, she busts complex routine after routine in the stunning tribute to Black fabulousness, complete with an homage to Ciara’s “1, 2 Step” and some instantly recognizable memes of yesteryear. 

Monét learned songwriting and production as a teen after having already developed a talent for dance. Following a failed turn in a girl group established by veteran R&B super-producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, she paid the bills by writing songs for other artists. She’s earned over 50 credits, including Chloe x Halle’s “Do It,” Blackpink and Selena Gomez’s “Ice Cream,” and, perhaps most famously, large chunks of Ariana Grande’s discography, most notably “Thank U, Next.” There’s a balance between delicate wit and girlish goofiness in Grande’s music that you can also hear in Monét’s own work, evidencing her significant impact on Grande. “I’m so thankful working with my best friend, she the cheat code,” they sing together on their 2019 duet “Monopoly.”

Jaguar II is a shining demonstration of the aptitude that made Monét a sought after collaborator, but here, in the album’s comfy old-school soul and sharp modern edge, she preserves something fresh and unique for herself. It’s largely produced by Monét and her longtime ally D’Mile, a Grammy and Oscar-winner whose previous successes include Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak’s smash An Evening With Silk Sonic. As excellent as that LP was, it was a an intentionally gimmicky ploy for nostalgia, an approach Jaguar II slickly departs from while still giving grown, sexy, and sturdy. Made mostly with live instrumentation, Jaguar II is lush without being boisterous, like big band lo-fi. In style and ethos, it approves upon her already-strong 2020 independent release Jaguar, an animal Monét likens herself to for its stealth and power. “I still feel like I’m on the prowl and inching towards something,” Monét told Harper’s Bazaar recently.

Bold brass sections are the new album’s calling card, making it feel gilded and regal. The horns are particularly potent on “Smoke” with Lucky Daye, “On My Mama,” and especially “Cadillac (A Pimp’s Anthem),” which plays like a feminist reimagining of Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious.” Combined with crunchy guitar and stank-face bass, Jaguar II sounds thick and royal all over, pulling from legends like Earth, Wind and Fire and Buju Banton, both of whom are featured on the album. But it’s also a celebration of the music made in Monét’s lifetime, with modern flourishes from the hip-hop cadences and dance signatures throughout, particularly on the Kaytranada collab “Alright.” On straddling influence and innovation, Monét told Rolling Stone that she was inspired by the Seventies but also wanted to make music her toddler daughter Hazel (who coos on “Hollywood” with Earth, Wind and Fire) could and would enjoy.


Monét’s heart, discipline, and visceral grooves make Jaguar II the crowning crystallization of an R&B resurgence that has been in the air since SZA’s SOS began to dominate the charts last December. Whereas R&B divas like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson once ruled pop, soul seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of modern music. Maybe it declined as white pop stars from Britney Spears to Justin Bieber to Grande herself borrowed from Black R&B acts and made something with broader (read: whiter) appeal. Maybe it’s because as hip-hop began prominently featuring R&B guests and samples, rappers like Drake eventually started to croon themselves. Maybe it’s just because many artists all over music are rejecting genre more widely, leaving R&B’s influence jumbled in new melanges. Maybe it’s because older R&B standards and the music in their lineage are less clippable for social media, relying on build up and slow burn when the internet demands speed and shock.

Yet, there has been a surge of singers — new, old, and in between — leaning into R&B and reaping real benefits, from SZA’s “Snooze” throttling radio with help from Babyface and Leon Thomas, to Usher’s viral Vegas residency, to the six R&B NPR Tiny Desks back to back this summer, to the ascendance of neo-girl-group Flo, singer-rapper hybrid Doechii, and powerhouse vocalist Coco Jones. As a girl group veteran herself, songwriter to the industry’s finest, and a burgeoning solo superstar, Victoria Monét is a huge part of a movement that’s breathing new life into an often overlooked genre that has so often been a cornerstone of everything else.

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